Thu, Jul 05, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Experts say medical malpractice law needs to be revised

Staff writer, with CNA

Academia Sinica and members of the medical community on Tuesday called for the revision of a law that treats medical malpractice as a criminal act, amid an increasing shortage of doctors.

In a presentation on improvements to the National Health Insurance system at an Academia Sinica meeting, Chen Ding-shinn (陳定信), a chair professor at National Taiwan University Medical College, said he supports the decriminalization of medical negligence.

He said obstetricians and gynecologists are particularly vulnerable to lawsuits and medical disputes, which dampens medical students’ willingness to enter that branch of the profession. Noting that about 43 percent of Taiwan’s 211 townships and districts do not have any ob/gyn doctors, he warned that women might one day be forced to go overseas to have their babies.

Medical lawsuits against doctors in five specialties — internal medicine, external medicine, ER, ob/gyn and pediatrics — accounted for 85 percent of all medical disputes between 1987 and last year, with neurosurgeons listed as the most vulnerable, followed by obstetricians and gynecologists, Department of Health Minister Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) said.

In an advisory paper on medical and health policies proposed by the institute, experts suggested regulating medical malpractice under the Medical Care Act (醫療法) instead of criminal law and pushed for bills that support “appropriate punishment” in cases of medical negligence. They also urged the administration to set up a system of medical compensation for death or injury caused by medical treatment.

The Ministry of Justice is scheduled to hold a public hearing to discuss the criminal responsibility of medical practices tomorrow. Over the past six years, lawsuits against doctors for causing death through medical negligence have numbered about 100 per year, the ministry said. Over the past three years, one in 10 of these cases have ended with indictments against the doctors involved.

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